On March 13, President Donald Trump announced that Google was building a coronavirus website. It never panned out. The Atlantic staff writer Robinson Meyer investigated how such a website was nearly built by a company closely connected to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
Listen to the episode here:
Here are some highlights from the interview:
Robinson Meyer: “Look at the track record of some of the people in the Trump administration leading the pandemic-response effort and then look at the outcome. Jared Kushner, one of his first goals in the White House back in 2017 was to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement. The U.S. is not in the Paris Agreement. Then one of his goals was to have peace in the Middle East—to work out this deal with the Israelis and Palestinians. Didn’t work. And now he’s leading part of a project in the federal government to develop a website and oversee part of the coronavirus response, and guess what? We didn’t get a website at the end of it.
Jim Hamblin: It’s hard to overstate the importance of a website like this. In an emergency public-health response, communication is so key. And if there’s going to be one website where everyone goes to determine how our health care is allocated, as in do you need to seek treatment or can you ride this out at home? And where should you go and how do we avoid overloading our hospitals and how do we avoid people dying at home and how are we most clearly communicating what symptoms need to be prioritized and when? It’s hard to think of a higher-stakes contract than for a website like this. So it’s very concerning to me to hear that this even might have been just something where you turn to whoever seemed available or you knew firsthand, or there was anything less than an extremely deliberate and and competitive aboveboard and transparent process to develop the best possible site we could.
Meyer: The end product of this whole mess is not only did the Trump administration do all these shady, possibly unethical things, but we got an incompetent government response at the end of it. People weren’t helped, Americans weren’t helped, at the end of it.